Filming to begin next week in the Lansing area for “The Burial”; Director shares his insight and how the community can help


Telling the story ... Director Jack Meggers points to a storyboard consisting of pictures and short summaries of plot used to plan out all the shots needed to prepare for the upcoming film shoot for the short film “The Burial”. That filming is scheduled to take place around the Lansing area during the last week of August. Photo by Susan Cantine-Maxson.

Others who may be seen around the Lansing area during filming of “The Burial” ... Pictured above are additional cast and crew members who may be seen around the Lansing area next week during the late-August filming of “The Burial”. Left to right are actor Tom Garland, who will play one of the lead roles of “Tyler”; actress Nokomis Leaman Logsdon, who will play one of the lead roles of “Abby”; actress Katelyn Douglass, who will play one of the lead roles of “Haley”; production manager Kristian Day, who will be producing the film along with director Jack Meggers (pictured further above); and cinematographer Chad Griepentrog. Submitted photos.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

“Follow your dreams” is the motto which Jack Meggers lives by.

For the past few years, Meggers, who is an Iowa native and whose father, Larry Meggers, is a current resident of Lansing, has been pursuing his dream of making a full-length feature film in northeast Iowa. Getting the funding for such a project is difficult. Even a low-budget film with a cost of half a million dollars is almost an insurmountable task. Because of those hurdles, Meggers has begun to follow a slower alternate route to fulfilling that dream of a feature length film.

Meggers’ interest in film goes back to his childhood when he became entranced by the magic of the Star Wars films. Growing up around the Mason City/Clear Lake area, he was involved in theatre and acting throughout high school and college. He attended Iowa State University and trained as a classical actor. After college, he worked in the film and television industry in New York and Los Angeles for 15 years.

As he learned all aspects of film production, he also began writing a feature length screen play that he entitled “The Burial”. As the screenplay developed, he felt strongly that the best setting for this piece would be northeast Iowa. His father had moved to the Lansing area several years ago and Meggers and his family had come to the area for fishing and camping for many years. He had fallen in love with the natural beauty of the area.

Meggers concentrates on storytelling through narrative feature films. “Films are a powerful way to stimulate cathartic reactions in an audience and a compelling way to communicate ideas. This current project deals with family, love, spirituality, environmentalism, indigenous culture and the intersection and connectivity of all of these. The storyline of the film shows a young woman returning to her childhood home in northeast Iowa where she must confront the responsibilities of dealing with her estranged father’s estate. Some childhood friends influence her in detrimental ways. The group makes a startling discovery in the woods and must deal with the consequences of several poor decisions.”

As Meggers sought funding for the feature length film, he needed to support himself, so he worked as a substitute teacher in the Des Moines area. He began to branch out and began using his videography skills by making short films around Des Moines. That led to more networking and more connections with fellow artists, especially fellow film makers. He was encouraged to apply for an Iowa Arts Council fellowship.

Each year for the last five years, the Iowa Arts Council has chosen five artists to showcase. After an extensive application process, Meggers was chosen as one of the artists for the 2017-2018 Fellowship year. The $10,000 fellowships allow the artists to focus their visions and give them an opportunity to network and receive professional development training. Each artist meets with groups around the state during their fellowship year to discuss their artistic projects and visions.

Meggers had high praise for the Iowa Arts Council Fellowship program, “It’s a piece of financial support which allows the artist to concentrate more on their work and craft. It also included some wonderful professional development opportunities through their collaboration with Creative Capital, which is a non-profit organization out of New York City that develops artists’ business acumen in visual arts, performing arts, moving image and literature. Those workshops help with networking, creating business plans and marketing.  I was extremely honored to be the first film maker in Iowa Arts Council history to receive one of their fellowships. This opened a lot of new avenues for me. The fellowship experience was incredibly rewarding for me. Professional development is wonderful.

“The five artists met with the public in Meet the Artists talks around the state, where we talked about our creative vision and projects. The other fellows in my year were a visual artist, a writer, a musician and another artist who worked in sculpture and paper making. I ended up collaborating with one of the other fellow artists from Grinnell, making a film about how she creates her art, documenting the art and the process. That was incredibly enriching and inspiring. The fellowship ended in July. The participation in this program gave me a boost in confidence as an artist and film making and validated that my project is a worthy one. Getting the Iowa Arts Council Fellowship was one the best things that ever happened to me.”

On the heels of the completion of his fellowship year, he, along with the other fellows, was encouraged by the Iowa Arts Council to apply for a project grant. For Meggers, this project became the creation of a short teaser version of “The Burial.”

Meggers elaborated about how his goals for the film had evolved, “I had originally envisioned this feature to be a small microbudget film of $100,000 but because of the involvement of individuals who had been involved in much bigger budget films, it grew into a half million-dollar project. When those funds didn’t come through, I needed to go back to my original vision and ask questions about ‘What was my original intent?’ Also, having had an additional 2.5 years living in Iowa and working on small projects and working with lots of local artists with smaller budgets, I was able to learn what I could do with very little money and with whom I could do that with. It became more realistic for me to create a film with a much lower budget level. It’s still difficult to make a short film for virtually a micro-budget.

“I came upon the idea of making a short version of the feature idea which could serve as a proof of concept, so I would have something tangible to show to investors of what I can do. If I’m able to show investors or production companies in Los Angeles, New York City or Canada that 1) I can make a very professional looking product; 2) I can direct; and 3) I can show off the production value of this area - northeast Iowa and Allamakee County, the beauty and value of the opportunity of a feature length film will be undeniable. The shortened version will include the introduction, the set-up and the central conflict of the story. It ends on a cliffhanger, so people will want more.”

Film making is a very expensive art form. Meggers has done some crowdfunding to create the matching funds needed for the grants he received. The expenses include camera, lighting and equipment rental, artists’ payment, and small stipend for the filmmakers (camera people, etc.), travel expenses, etc.

Meggers explained that process, “We sent out audition notices through Talent Agencies in the Midwest and throughout the nation through a trade paper called ‘Backstage.’ The actors chosen are Nokomis Leaman Logsdon (New York), Katelyn Douglass (Chicago) and Tom Garland(Las Vegas/Cedar Rapids). Most of the other parts will be played by local people and extras. The shoot will be five days, the last week of August. It’s exciting and anxiety producing, but it’s so rewarding to be moving forward on this project.”

Meggers said it will take about 15 people to complete the film, including cast and crew. The film’s producer and sound designer is Kristian Day from Des Moines. Both Day and the cinematographer, Chad Griepentrog, had met doing work on the television shows “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.”

Meggers explained, “We have a lot of professional experience in our cast and crew, which is exciting. We are creating art, so we need to approach this as professionally as possible. Samantha Kuester, our costume designer, has worked on several national shows which had shoots in Des Moines. These crew people are all people who I’ve developed professional working relationships with.”

Meggers continued, “I’m also excited to bring the art of film making to northeast Iowa. As part of the grant, I chose to focus on rural arts access. My desire is to make this experience available in rural Iowa, specifically in Allamakee County. There will be many opportunities for individuals to help. The shoot dates are August 27 through 31. If there are people who would like to observe the process, that would be great. I’ll be casting some locals for extra parts. I’ll be looking for production assistants who can help move things, serve food, make coffee and lots of odd jobs. This would be a great way for students who are interested in film to get in on the basics. The best way to learn is to participate and observe. Val Reinke and the Allamakee Economic Development Office have been very helpful with putting us in touch with people who can help.

“The $10,000 grant barely covers the expenses of the film but we’ll also need to borrow things like fans, furniture blankets and more. Since we are filming in the middle of the woods, we really need an RV or motor home for cast and crew to get out of the heat when they aren’t on set. We’ll need porta potties, and the necessities of providing for people working 12-hour days: meals, water, snacks, ice, etc. We also need a make-up/hair person who can assist with keeping the make-up fresh on the actors, but they won’t be looking made up because they are out in the woods. We need someone to photograph the process, so we have behind the scenes photos. We will need everything which makes a film happen. We have the enthusiasm and excitement, but we will need some hands-on help as well. A lot of making movies is ‘hurry up and wait.’ It takes hours to make minutes of film. The moments when the cameras roll is what it’s all about. That’s when the magic happens. There’s nothing better.”

There is an online document on the social media presence for “The Burial” where people can sign up for what they can loan or if they want to volunteer time or talents. Individuals may also contact producer Kristian Day at Kristianday@gmail.com or by phone at 720-934-4427. That “want list” of items and volunteer opportunities accompanies this article in a shaded box.

The film will be shot in a private woods and farm north of Highway 9, close to Lansing. Eventually, the film will be premiered in Lansing since it will be shot just outside of town and in town.

Next, “The Burial” will be entered into several film festivals, both regionally and nationally. Hopefully, this exposure will also serve as an inroad to connecting with a larger production company who will be interested in producing the full-length feature film.
 

“The Burial” Wish List

Film production for “The Burial” is seeking volunteers and in-kind items for donation or borrowing, as listed below, as plans to begin filming August 27-31 get underway. The borrowed items will be returned September 1, 2 or 3. Those able to contribute to the list may contact film director Jack Meggers at 515-205-6917 or at jackmeggers@gmail.com, or may sign up at the link available on the movie’s social media presence. Donated items can be dropped off at 63 Shaw Street in Lansing and would be appreciated by Sunday, August 26.

As a small token of appreciation, everyone that donates or volunteers will receive credit in the film and mention on all of the movie’s social media platforms. Additionally, everyone that donates or volunteers will receive a free ticket to the Lansing premiere of “The Burial”, which is scheduled to take place this fall.

Volunteer Help
• Daily Volunteers (runners/production assistants) 2 or 3 each day, or can be split into 3-4 hour shifts
• Behind The Scenes Photography (2-4 hours per day or as needed)

Food Items
• Cases of bottled water
• Breakfast items: eggs, hash browns, cereal, etc.
• Snack foods (chips, candy, fruit, etc.)
• Drinks (pop, juice, tea, coffee, etc.)
• Bags of ice for each shooting day

Lodging
• We have 3 or 4 cast/crew that still need housing (5-8 nights)

Vehicles
• RV/Motorhome
• Gators x2
• Older small-medium pleasure/fishing boat (1 day)

Meals
• Lunch for 15 people prepared each day (lunch only)

Production Supplies
• 6-foot Folding Tables x2
• 50-foot extension cables (as many as possible/mark them)
• Pop-up tents with removable walls
• Portable Fans
• Small Generators - one small (120 volts), one larger (1200 volts)
• Rain Umbrellas
• Shop Towels
• Pull Wagons or Carts with wheels (2 or 3)
• Furniture Blankets (as many as we can)
• Wrestling mats (foldable units, 2 or 3)
 

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